Vint Cerf is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the Internet thanks to his work on ARPANet, the military’s predecessor to the modern Internet. That’s why his words should have more weight when he says that preserving digital information for future generations is incredibly important and will be difficult if something isn’t done soon. Specifically, Cerf raises the question of how people will be able to read particular files if the format is decades or even centuries out of date.
Back in the 1970s, Vint Cerf was one of the engineers working on ARPANet, the early military predecessor to the internet, and consequently he’s often referred to as one of the founders of the internet. These days, the decidedly father-figure-esque Cerf still cares about the network he helped create — specifically, saving digital information for posterity. In a BBC interview, Cerf raises the ugly possibility that centuries (or even decades) from now, file formats will have become obscure and unreadable. Given that I spent most of last week struggling to read an old Outlook data file on Windows 8, I can see his point. Silly though the headline might sound — Internet Pioneer Says You Should Print Your Photos If You Want To Save Them! — Cerf raises an entirely legitimate concern. Without the tools to interpret a particular file format, all you really have saved is a long, indecipherable list of 1s and 0s. It takes layer upon layer of complexity for.